Getting in the Right Mindset to Take the Bar Exam
Image by Jan Vasek from Pixabay
This blog was originally published on June 12, 2018 and has been updated.
If you are planning on sitting for the Bar Exam, now is the time to buckle down for some serious studying. Whether you are a fresh graduate sitting for your first exam, or an attorney relocating to another state (without bar reciprocity), here are some important considerations to keep in mind:
Schedule your studying
Determine where and when you will be studying, and stick to it. A routine will help you stay on track, and also provide you with some much needed predictability for planning. For those of you taking commercial bar prep courses, stick to the prescribed schedule.
Remove sources of stress
If you have not done so already, inform your family, friends, significant others, roommates, employers, really EVERYONE about your upcoming need to focus on taking the bar, so they will respect your study routine. Make the necessary arrangements you may need for child or family care, and ensure that your finances are sorted out. You do not want to waste time explaining why you haven’t been socializing or participating in your regular activities.
Be diligent and focused
Stick to the set study schedule and do not slack off. Remove any distractions–set your phone or tablets on airplane mode/do not disturb, put a sign outside your room, don’t have a TV or fridge in close proximity to your study area. Remember that goal of passing the bar exam merits your full attention. If you remain on track and focused, your test-taking skills and retention of legal knowledge will improve.
Know when you have had enough
Studying for the bar should be your full time job. This means that you show up and do the work, but when you’re done, you call it a day and do something else. Avoiding burnout is critical in making sure you remain mentally healthy, and will help you tremendously in retaining the knowledge you study.
Practice under test-conditions
Take practice exams and answer practice problems under timed conditions. Find an ideal location that will simulate real-life bar exam conditions. Most exams are now being administered remotely during the pandemic, but with strict monitoring and no-interruption requirements. If you need to, rent a hotel room or designate a quiet space in your home that can be locked, to prevent disruptions. Prepare so you know what it’s like to take a full-day exam before the actual date arrives.
Update and test your electronics
For remote test-takers, ensure that your laptop or desktop is fully updated with the most recent virus-free software, and have access to uninterrupted electricity, with a battery back-up. Fix any bugs and ensure you have a strong wi-fi, or better yet, have a wired LAN connection. Check your camera to ensure that it is functioning properly and that you are clearly visible in the viewfinder. Make sure you take the exam on the same computer that you used for practice tests. The last thing you want is to have a technical issue in the midst of taking the bar exam.
Take care of yourself
Eat well, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. To keep your engine running, you have to make sure it is well maintained. Start matching your waking and sleep schedules to the exam hours. You will be expected to perform your best between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Adjust accordingly.
Do not let others freak you out
On the day of the bar exam, if you are taking the test in person, there will invariably other test-takers who chat loudly to brag about what they have done to prepare. During breaks or at the end of the day, people will talk about how they answered a question or spotted an issue. Get away from this, quiet your mind, and don’t contribute to this unsettling chatter. You don’t need the additional stress and anxiety.
Remember—you know what YOU need to do. You have already come this far. Now, just do it.